Bears president/CEO Ted Phillips to retire in February

Ted Phillips, who has served as the Bears’ president and CEO since 1999, will retire in February, the team said Friday.

The Bears have already begun looking for his successor.

Phillips is the fourth president in team history — and the only one not related to founder George Halas. His son “Mugs” Halas held the job, followed by grandson Michael McCaskey. Phillips replaced Michael McCaskey after serving as vice president of operations from 1993-99. He was the team’s controller from 1983-87 and finance director from 1987-93.

“He started out with us as a financial expert,” said Bears matriarch Virginia McCaskey in a statement. “Anything that he was ever asked to take care of, he came through and did it very well. We’ve been very blessed to have him.”

Phillips’ focus was on the Bears’ business operations — he negotiated a deal to renovate Soldier Field when Michael McCaskey could not, although the Bears have since decided that playing at the lakefront stadium is not acceptable. McCaskey and Phillips led the Bears’ search for land upon which to build a new stadium. The Bears are currently in escrow on the former Arlington Racecourse site in Arlington Heights; it’s expected to close before Phillips retires.

Phillips presence at Bears’ season-ending press conferences irked some fans. The Bears won only three playoff games during Phillips’ tenure.

Phillips’ pending retirement seemed to be a possibility in January, when chairman George McCaskey said that, in a change, new general manager Ryan Poles would report to him and not Phillips.

McCaskey did not change the fundamental structure of Halas Hall then — and it’s unclear whether he will do so when hiring Phillips’ replacement. When the Bears install a new president/CEO for the first time in 24 years, they’ll have an opportunity to modernize their structure, separating the business side of the franchise from the football side. McCaskey, though, has resisted calls to do so in the past.

Organizational information gleaned from the Bears’ lengthy general manager interview process — they talked to 13 candidates — could inform how they Bears proceed in hiring Phillips’ replacement. One GM candidate, Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan, had a resume that seemed more in line with Phillips’ job than the vacant GM post. The Steelers, though, named Khan general manager four months later.

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